By now I’m sure most of you have heard about Tiger Woods’ latest brush with the law … a DUI arrest near his Jupiter Island home in Florida.
This arrest has (like nearly everything these days) sparked a bit of controversy with some claiming police had no right to arrest the impaired Woods because he was not actually driving a car when he was taken into custody. Nor was there an indication of alcohol consumption.
So why, you ask, would police officers arrest a person for simply sitting inside their car NOT drinking alcohol? Well, it goes something like this …
First, Mr. Woods wasn’t merely sitting in the car listening to his favorite jams on the radio. Instead, police found him seated behind the wheel with the engine running and the lights on … stopped in the right lane of a Florida roadway. This took place at night/early morning hours.
When officers asked questions (they had to wake him to begin the questioning), Woods responses were slurred and sluggish. He was confused and disoriented and didn’t know how far he was from his home. Not exactly the behavior of a person who’s brain is not in a state equal to that of a bucket filled with wriggling worms. Or, as some of my old acquaintances in the south used to say, “He was as “effed-up” as a bucket of worms.” By the way, “effed” was not the actual portion of vocabulary that typically spilled out when using this particularly charming phrase.
So there’s the basis for the stop—Woods’ car sitting in the road, running, with headlights on. Yes, it’s still considered a traffic stop even when the suspect’s car is already in a stopped position.
But why arrest for DUI when the car is sitting still? And no alcohol showing up on the roadside testing device? Or a breathalyzer? What’s up with that?
Florida law, like other states, requires you to take a breath, blood, or urine test if you are arrested for DUI. This law is called the “implied consent” law, and it states (I’m paraphrasing here) that if the operator of a vehicle is arrested by an officer who has probable cause (in this case a car sitting in the road, running, with headlights on) to believe that they’ve been driving under the influence of a substance, then they consent to taking a chemical test of their blood, breath or urine for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content (BAC), or for other drugs. Drivers cannot legally refuse without penalty.
So yes, you could be arrested for a DUI even if you are not driving. If a driver has physical control of the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or other chemicals, then that can be enough for an officer to arrest you. Physical control, by the way, doesn’t always mean behind the wheel motoring down the highway. Instead, it simply means that the driver is in a position to move the vehicle (or other self-propelled equipment, such as a tractor or even a riding mower). Even if the driver is asleep when the officer makes contact, the potential that the “driver” could wake up and operate the vehicle has been enough for Florida courts, among others, to rule that the driver had actual physical control of their vehicles. Griffin v. State457 So.2d 1070 (1984)).
Now, back to Tiger Woods. During their investigation, Woods told officers he’d recently had back surgery and was taking four medications, including the often abused opioid-based Vicodin.
Woods failed the roadside field sobriety tests and officers noted that he had trouble walking and it appeared that it was a real chore for him to keep his eyes open. By the way, one obvious sign that someone is using/abusing Vicodin is extreme drowsiness/difficulty keeping eyes open.
So, after all was said and done, Woods was arrested for DUI.
The arrest is solid because Woods was, after all, under the influence of drugs (prescription medications). This is nothing new. People abuse prescription drugs all the time. Every day, in fact. And those people also get behind the wheels of their cars and they drive, while heavily impaired. Doing so is no different than driving while under the influence of alcohol. Impaired driving is impaired driving no matter the substance that causes the “bucket of wriggling worms” inside your brain.
Some states have per se laws that make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of certain drugs in one’s system.
Woods will undoubtedly claim that the mix of medications was the cause of his impairment, and a judge will probably let him off the hook. Why? Money. Fame. Fortune. And merely because he’s Tiger Woods and not ordinary ‘ol you or me.
Ain’t that as “effed up” as a bucket of worms.
Note – The above images are my creations, as sad as they are. I purposely pen these drawings in the crude and goofy style you see on this site. Why do I draw them this way? Because I, too, am goofy.